I love the Lotus, but I haven’t eaten it. Yet. I love its beauty, the simplicity of its lines, the luminescence of its petals, the clarity of its colors. I love the symbolism that is part of its history. If I had a pond, it would be filled with Lotus flowers and Koi fish. I would sit on a warm rock and watch my flowers and fish and be filled with so much peace and serenity, I would have to give that big sigh. You know, the one that says all is right with your world.
So, what is the symbolism? The Lotus is a plant that begins its growth in the mud and gunk at the bottom of ponds or shallow, slow-moving areas of waterways. While its roots remain in the sludge, the stem begins to push its way up. Up through muddy water, the stem and bud reaching higher and higher, until the water becomes clear. Then, it breaks through the surface and reaches towards the sun. Petal by petal, the bud unfurls until the full beauty of the flower is exposed. This is a pretty literal description, but I think as the muddy waters clear, the symbolism to our own journey through life becomes clear.
There is a growing appreciation for the Lotus story by many people; but it has special significance in the Buddhist, Hindu, and even early Egyptian religions, as the path to enlightenment. But the story has grown and can be shared by all, since we are all part of the human condition. Pretty much every single person I have ever met has a story of struggle, hardship, sadness, loss. We all have to work our way through the mud, and it’s a hard journey. I know I’ve been there, and I didn’t think I’d make my way out.
But then, suddenly, we do. We might not even be sure how it happened, but strength, perseverance, holding onto hope all play a part. Things still look murky, but the going starts getting easier. One day we look up, and we can see the light. We feel encouraged, our strength and determination grows. Finally, our heads break through the water. Sunlight streams down and warms us. We lift our faces, raise our arms and soak in the air and light. We’ve made it through and come out on top. Hopefully, we are wiser, more compassionate, empathetic, tolerant, with a stronger sense of self and a greater belief in our abilities. Plus, lots of other good things. The point is, the beauty can never bloom at the top, unless it fights through the muddy darkness at the bottom first.
“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering. … The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. … Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one. ” ― Goldie Hawn
The Lotus is known by several other names, including The Bean of India, Indian Lotus or Sacred Lotus, and officially as Nelumbo nucifera. There is also the American Lotus, Nelumbo lutea. The seeds of the lotus, within the cental pod, can remain viable for thousands of years if stored properly. You’ve probably seen the dried pod used in flower arrangements. While the Sacred Lotus hails from the tropical Asian area, loving it hot and humid, it can generally grow anywhere there is at least three months of temperatures over 80 degrees during the day. Which is why the American version can grow here, though mainly east and south of the Rockies, and in California.
Now, about eating the Lotus. You really can. Most of the plant is edible, including the flower, young leaves and the young leaf stalks, the seeds, and the roots or rhizomes. These were staples for the Native American. Perhaps you’d like to sprinkle a few petals on your salad or use in an herbal tea. Next time you’re making Spring Rolls, instead of wrapping them in lettuce, try a Lotus leaf. Serve up the steamed stems as your side vegetable at dinner. The seeds are sweet and can be eaten raw or toasted and can be ground into a flour. Finally, the rhizomes can be sliced and steamed or fried, or ground up and used as a thickener. The plant is supposed to be full of nutrients and all good things.
How great is that, a plant that feeds your body and your soul. Now I understand the song by REM. “So happy to show us. I ate the Lotus. Say, haven’t you noticed? I ate the Lotus.” This may explain the group’s longevity!
Linda Williams Stirling
For edible uses of the Lotus, check out: here.